LAHORE - Lack of political will and governance challenges have always hindered the process of police transformation in the past. Even the efforts, if made any, went in vain because of directionless goals. The measures introduced without the strategic reform agenda have always cost the department its reputation, and Punjab Police today is criticised for the things they have done and also for the things they haven’t done.

But the newly proposed police reforms finally have what it takes to overhaul the image of police, their perception and their service delivery system without impacting their autonomy.

After reviewing the documents available with this publication, one can gauge the effectiveness of proposed accountability mechanism which aims at strengthening the police and the citizens at the same time.

If the proposed plan is implemented in true letter and spirit, it shall enable the policing System as the strongest and flawless pillar in maintaining and improving on law and order in the province while protecting citizens from police excesses.

Some of the reforms proposed in the plan reflect the best international practices.  The concept of Police Inspectorate has been taken from the British police system. Police Inspectorates were established there during 1860.

New reforms package takes into account Pakistan’s obligations to international human rights laws

The idea of political oversight has been taken from South Africa where the National Assembly has a permanent committee called the Portfolio Committee on Police tasked with Police oversight exclusively.  The Committee uses legislative, budgetary and monitoring powers to oversee the police.  The new reforms package also takes into account Pakistan’s obligations to the international human rights laws.

While the actual applicability of international law within the domestic system may vary depending on the national legal framework, a State may not invoke its Constitution or other national laws as reasons for not fulfilling its obligations under international law.  When signing a treaty, a State is obliged to bring its domestic legislation into line with the international treaty.

If we explore the global practices, accountability’s horizon is way broader than police autonomy in developed states and still they have better law and order situation.  The accountability system internationally is so flawless that if a police officer is caught red handed, he resigns during the investigation because he knows he will be nabbed. On the other hand,  Punjab Government is not just holding the police accountable but that too without damaging their operational autonomy.  The Independent External Inspectorates proposed by the Punjab Government are actually going to render services as saviors for Police Department, because they shall prevent police from any unlawful indulgence.

PCA and Inspectorates shall contribute in curbing high handedness of Police, and in elimination of nefarious elements while bringing forward the talent, the top performers of police. On the basis of the same, key postings shall be made with performance priority index.

This proposed system of internal and external accountability, where nobody would be allowed to disobey the system.

Everybody shall abide by the rules and standards for detention and questioning through fair trials.

Proposed plan also focuses on use of technology in curbing criminal activities,

Punjab government is already working on expansion of Punjab Forensics Science Agency. Government has already allocated budget for establishment of forensics agencies at divisional level. Through its local presence and connectivity, it shall put the investigations on fast track. Punjab government is also setting up training lab under Punjab Forensics Science Agency at a cost of Rs. 1377 million.  One of the key reforms suggested in the plan is establishment of Police Complaint Authority, this one reform would not only prevent cases of serious injury/death in custody but no black sheep in the police would become embarrassment for the entire Police Department either.

The authority shall cover the entire province with its regional presence. PCA shall induct professional investigators and the top tier management and middle tier management, shall be governed by Directors/Deputy Directors, who could be lawyers, prosecutors, retired police officers, civil servants or anybody with relevant experience and expertise to contribute to the system. With the introduction of these reforms, police would be enabled to focus on service delivery and maintenance of law and order.  If God forbid, any case of serious injury arises in police custody, it wouldn’t impact police operations but the Authority would be looking after the case and culprits would be held accountable accordingly. It shall come under PCA’s mandate whether to investigate a case by the authority itself or by the police under authority’s supervision.

Establishment of the Authority shall strengthen an ordinary citizen in a way that nobody would be allowed to deprive them of their rights, as it shall come into action as an autonomous body with powers to undertake investigations and inquiries without any influence from police.

All these reforms were already in the offing, but Government has finally crafted an organised and systematic approach for fair and accurate implementation of the process.  Police must facilitate this citizen centric approach in the best provincial and national interest. Under the proposed reforms, Punjab Government shall also be taking key steps for administrative and financial autonomy for Station House Officers. Through relevant legislations, government shall declare SHOs Drawing and Disbursing Officers. Baseline expenditures shall be accordingly determined for each of the police stations and this key step shall improve service delivery at local level. This is for the sake of creating an enabling environment for the police which in turn shall provide an environment for public that they actually deserve.  It is hoped the proposed set of reforms for police by the Punjab Government must go into final implementation as soon as possible. This is for the sake of public, for the sake of police and for the sake of overall national interest.